Designed by architect E.W. Mountfield FRIBA, famous for Sheffield Town Hall and The Old Bailey, Lancaster Town Hall was officially opened on 27 December 1909 by Lord Ashton, a local multi-millionaire businessman and industrialist, who paid for the construction of the building.
The project took 3 years to build and employed Lancaster furniture manufacturers Waring and Gillow as the main contractors for the stone work, furniture and wood carvings. The stone carving over the front steps was undertaken by F.W. Pomfrey and the stain glass windows were made by local firm Shrigley and Hunt.
Originally, the Town Hall incorporated all the council's services and departments; Lancaster Police Station, including cells in the basement; the Magistrates Court, the Mayor's Parlour, reception rooms, committee rooms, council chamber, The Ashton Hall and the adjacent Fire Station. Aside from the old Fire Station and the Mayor’s Parlour, all of these rooms and areas are available to hire for events, meetings, weddings or filming requests today.
Swedish green marble, white marble and Spanish red marble adorns the main entrance and corridors, while many of the rooms are clad in oak panelling; contributing to the sense of timeless grandeur which compliments the Edwardian architecture of the building’s exterior.
Lancaster Town Hall houses many important historical artefacts, one of which is the Waring and Gillow centrifugal table.
The table is made of Cuban mahogany and by rotating it from its smallest setting, which is approximately 2 metres in diameter, eight leaves are inserted and the table expands to become approximately 3 metres in diameter. The date of manufacturer was circa 1910, with as few as five being produced, although the whereabouts of any other examples is unknown. This particular example sat on display in the Waring and Gillow showroom until 1945, when it was presented to the city by the firm to commemorate their 250th anniversary (1795-1945), although it is widely acknowledged that Robert Gillow didn't actually set up the business until approximately 1830. The discrepancy in the dates remains unexplained.
Law & Order in the Town Hall
Lancaster Town Hall's ‘new’ magistrates court, with its Waring and Gillows oak panelling and furniture, was a direct replacement for the court in the old town hall. Its main business was of a minor nature, such as theft or drunkenness and was also used as a coroner's court. As with all magistrates courts, it was the starting point for some major trials. One of the most infamous cases brought before the court, was that of Dr Buck Ruxton, who in 1935, was accused of the double murder of his wife and their housekeeper, Mrs Mary Rogerson. He appeared before the court in October and November 1935, before being committed for trial at Manchester assizes court. He was subsequently found guilty of both murders and was hung in Strangeways prison, Manchester in May 1936.
The police cells are situated directly below the courtroom, hence, a judge or magistrate saying 'take them down' when a defendant is found guilty. From the courtroom the cells are accessed via a staircase to the rear of the dock. The cells are very basic, with a wooden bench and a toilet in each. The only source of heat comes from the hot water pipes that run around the top of each cell. Of the seven cells, one was reserved for anyone who was 'intoxicated'. The bench is low to the floor and slopes from the head to toe. It was designed, to hopefully stop anyone who was 'ill' from choking. Each cell has a bell and indicator system, for alerting the officer in charge, that you required something. Originally two cells were designated for ladies. The court and cells were last used in 1985.
Hire the Town Hall
A wide variety of areas inside Lancaster Town Hall are available for non-commercial and commercial hire, as well as for filming enquiries. See our Room & Venue Hire page for more information.